Coppola Comes Out Against 3D

Godfather director and filmmaking legend Francis Ford Coppola has become the latest Hollywood person of interest to come out against 3D. Cue the 3D defenders who will now dismiss him as an old fogey out of touch with the times while waving around that ridiculous (and invalid) comparison to color replacing black and white film. But Coppola was actually one of the pioneers of modern 3D. He directed the 3D short film Captain EO with Michael Jackson and what’s more he’s not some technological neophyte. Coppola embraces a lot of other modern filmmaking innovations and in the same interview at Electronic House where he comes down on 3D he also praises digital moviemaking.

Coppola also offers some insight into why 3D’s suddenly so popular even though the format’s been around for decades. To his way of thinking, and I agree with him here, Hollywood would have done this long ago if it had been easier to do. Before the advent of digital cinema 3D was simply too difficult and too expensive. They’re not jumping on board the format because technological improvements have advanced to the point that it’s ready, they’re jumping on the format because it’s now a really easy way to make an extra buck.

People keep trying to equate this transition to the move from black and white movies to color, but Coppola’s explanation makes me think it’s more like the move from practical effects to computer generated ones. A couple of movies, like Jurassic Park, used computer generated effects and they looked pretty good. Hollywood saw how much money it made, saw that it’s cheaper to animate stuff rather than build huge sets and spend money on plastic explosives, so they started using CGI on everything whether or not it looked good and whether or not it actually worked for the films it was used on. The result is the CGI overuse we’re now permanently saddled with today, even though movies like Lord of the Rings have already rather definitively proven that computer generated effects work best when used in moderation and in conjunction with practical effects, real locations, and real sets.

Today Avatar is our Jurassic Park. 3D worked, in that one instance, and everyone realized it was easy to do and a way to make more money without actually putting in any effort, and they start tacking it on every movie even though we all know it only really works when it’s planned out in advance and when it’s used on specific projects where it’s warranted. And just like excessive, plasticky, bad computer generated effects, unwarranted 3D is probably here to stay.

Josh Tyler